WIN-BIG Kickoff at Aveiro

AaKP and our marine cluster, NCE Blue Legasea, are participating in a major European initiative to get more women into ocean industries.
WIN-BIG Kickoff at Aveiro

The goal is not just for more women but also for women to take a position in well-paid jobs.

This project is something we just had to be a part of, and which we, together with our partners, must be able to carry out in a good way. We do this not only for ourselves, but also for the generations that come after us. Half of humanity is women. That half must also be part of the economic development, and the ocean industries are an important sector. Therefore, we must all passionately commit to ensuring that this project is a success, says Laurence Martin, head of the Italian maritime organization Federazion del Mare.

She was one of around 30 partners who attended the kickoff for the WIN-BIG project in Aveiro in Portugal on 14th of June. WIN-BIG is one of two EU projects that focus on closing the gender gap within the "blue economy". The blue economy refers to industries such as fisheries, aquaculture, shipbuilding, maritime transport, offshore renewable energy and the blue bioeconomy.

ÅKP and our marine cluster NCE Blue Legasea represent Norway in the project, which has 14 partners from nine countries.

Among the key activities, the projects will emphasise women's participation in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics because women are often in the minority here. At the same time, data must be collected to evaluate gender inclusion and address the underlying causes of the under-representation of women in various sectors of the blue economy. Overriding this is a decision from the European Commission which will promote equality across politics and funding in different European countries.

Many workplaces

Did you know that the ocean industries employ over 4.5 million people in the EU but less than 30 per cent of these are women? And did you know that the jobs women have in the ocean industries are, on average, far less well-paid than the jobs for men in the same industries?

Being able to smooth this out is one of the reasons why the head of NCE Blue Legasea, Wenche Uksnøy, became a partner in the project:

The WIN-BIG initiative is important to us because ocean-based industries represent a large number of jobs, are in need of competence and are also in need of a focus on making use of women's skills.

Wenche attended the kickoff event in Aveiro together with the communications manager at AaKP, Elisabeth Solvang. In Aveiro, they were part of a thorough introduction to what the project is all about.

Simply put, it's about securing future value creation and putting all human resources to use. Our region in Norway, which is highly oriented towards the ocean industries, must take a position here. The threats and vulnerability we experience in Europe today reinforce the need to promote women's participation and opportunities in marine industries. That is why it was also important that we participated and expressed our voice during the kickoff in Aveiro, believes Wenche.

 We need an eye opener

One of the very few men who were present during the kickoff event was Stephen Hynes from the University of Galway in Ireland. Researcher and analyst Stephen believes WIN-BIG is very important:

The project has an important mission by showing the role women have, but also can have, in the ocean industries. I hope the project can build awareness in the industries, as well as make it easier for women to climb the career ladder within the blue industries. So yes, we need an eye opener on how to utilize all resources, as well as show younger women that they have a place in industries that they may never have thought about.

Two projects

There are two projects, both of which started on 1th of May, that will receive funding in this initiative. One is called, as mentioned, WIN-BIG. This project addresses knowledge gaps on women's role and participation in the blue economy across Europe. By carrying out extensive research and data mapping, the project aims to provide broad and accurate information on gender status and the extent of women's involvement in the blue economy in the EU.

In addition to identifying the competence gaps that prevents women from entering and progressing in so-called blue careers, WIN-BIG aims to create women-specific opportunities within emerging sectors such as blue bioeconomy, blue sports, sustainable tourism, marine renewable energy and robotics. Furthermore, the project aims to inspire young girls and female professionals by promoting female role models and innovative media formats that portray blue careers as attractive career opportunities.

Last but not least, the aim of WIN-BIG is to create a capacity-building roadmap that can be transferred across regions and countries for women in the blue economy.

The financial frame for the project is over EUR 1,3 million.

Supported by the Møre and Romsdal county

ÅKP and Blue Legasea are involved in WIN-BIG as associated partners through funding from Møre and Romsdal County. This means that it is the county council provides for the cluster's participation with NOK 485,000. The main partners in the WIN-Big project are financed by the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF). With a spotlight on gender equality, the European partners wanted a collaboration with a Norwegian partner.

Hilde Aspås, business manager in Møre og Romsdal county municipality, says this about why the county would support WIN-BIG:

Many of the ocean-based industries are male-dominated, and in order to get the value creation in the blue economy that we want, we must involve and use the capacity of women to an even greater extent.

Citizen of the world

Precisely using the capacity of women, as well as engaging both women and men in an economy that is as important as the ocean industries, is the reason why project manager Helena Vieira at the University of Aveiro in Portugal believes WIN-BIG is a key investment:

I think the project is important because we are still very far from equality. We are not 50-50 either when it comes to opportunities, income or gender balance, and therefore we have to work for equalisation

 she says, and adds that it is nice to be able to gather people from all over Europe in the project:

I consider myself to be a citizen of the world, and love to understand the differences between cultures in order to find a common language, work together and learn from each other. I'm sure we can make it happen here too.


The second project to receive support has been named WINBLUE. This project also focuses on strengthening women and gender equality in the blue economy. Among other things, the project will develop equality plans, provide training and guidance for female entrepreneurs, collect data on gender inclusion and identify good practices that can be transferred to other organisations. The aim is to promote equality and drive innovation and competitiveness in the blue economy.

Click here to read the Norwegian article.


Written by Elisabeth Solvang (AKP) 

Posted on

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